Showing posts with label tv. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tv. Show all posts

Saturday, July 3, 2010

You don't know what you got till it's gone

My old TV was a Westinghouse 32" SK-32H240S. I didn't think this was a very fancy TV at the time I bought it, I mean for one thing it was a Westinghouse, I didn't even know Westinghouse made TV's. It was on sale though and I wanted to upgrade from my old school 19" standard def TV to something more modern.

I had the TV for about 3 years before the Audio output (that I had my speakers hooked up to) decided to quit working. Taking advantage of the 4 year service plan I had paid for when I bought the TV at Best Buy, I brought the TV in and they sent it out for service.

In addition to the audio problem, the screen had developed a small shadow on the top center and because of the cost to fix this being more than the cost of allowing me to just get a new TV of comparable value, Best Buy decided not to fix it and gave me a credit. Initially I thought I would get credited the full amount of my original purchase. Visions of a magnificent new TV danced through my head as I envisioned what $600 might buy me today. This was not the case however and had I actually bothered to read the service agreement I would have seen that I would only get credit for a TV with "comparable" features currently on the market. The comparable TV was about $330. No problem, I wasn't looking to get a bigger TV anyway, just upgrade from 720p to 1080p ... not that I would be likely to notice the difference. The salesman at Best Buy showed me my options, I picked one that looked like it would fit my needs, paid the difference and brought it home.

The thing you need to know about my old TV before I continue is that it had a lot of inputs: 2 component, 2 HDMI, 1 VGA, 2 RCA, and it had RCA audio out with volume that was controlled through the set and thus not requiring external management. For someone using an extra set of PC speakers (because I'm cheap like that and my hearing's so shot I can't tell the different anyway) this was an ideal set up. I didn't know until I brought home my new TV that this was apparently not the norm.

First off the new TV hardly had any inputs. Ok, it had 4 HDMI ports, which is great except I only have one device connected via HDMI and that's my cable box. It only had one component input; also fine because my only component device is my Xbox 360, but for the sake of argument let's call this strike 1. It did not however have an RCA input. Actually that's a lie, it did, but it shared audio input with the component, so technically it didn't have a "dedicated" RCA input. This was a problem because if I wanted to use my Wii or PS2 I would need to disconnect my 360 and plug them in manually. Strike 2. Upon plugging in my speakers and changing the audio setting to "external" I learned that I could not (unlike my previous TV) control the volume of the audio output jack by adjusting the set volume, meaning I would have to manually go up to the speakers and adjust the volume instead of using a remote. Strike 3.

Obviously the TV needed to go back and I needed to get something closer to what my old set was capable of, so today I went back with the lackluster set in tow and exchanged it for the original "comparable" set, the one that was only 720p (not that I can tell the difference). I checked this set out extensively before exchanging. I was specifically looking at the menu options to see if there was any external/internal speaker switch and if so, could I not alter the volume in external mode. There wasn't such a feature, so I figured I was all set. Add to all this the fact that all of the other 32" sets had a remarkable lack of inputs and in some cases a lack of external audio output, and I really had no option.

I get the new new set home and thankfully can plug ALL my devices into it without switchers or arcane rituals. I plug the speakers in and I have the same problem. Well not exactly the same, with this one I CAN alter the volume when an external device is present, it just doesn't alter the volume of the external device. What the what?!

I'm not going to bring this one back, with the exception of the external speaker thing, this IS my old set and all I had to pay for was a new 4 year service plan. I'm going to have to make do with manual speakers I guess. It's not a huge deal since I don't often have to change the volume once I start watching something and technically if I wasn't a cheap bastard with my speakers I'd probably have a receiver with a remote to handle all this anyway and likely will in the future. Still, I never thought of my old TV as being "advanced" and maybe (technically) it wasn't, but for me it was perfect and I kinda miss it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I decided the other day that it was finally time to catch up on season 2 of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. I think most people would agree (Whedon fans included) that Dollhouse was luke-warm on arrival. The series premise (revolving around the character of Echo, an "active" at the eponymous "dollhouse", a place where one may rent a living human being who has been implanted with a new personality geared towards your personal needs/fantasies) was somewhat interesting, but the situations that arose from it weren't incredibly compelling. It really wasn't until about midway through season 1 that the plot began thickening and we began to get a glimpse into Whedon's serpentine labyrinth of story. For those who stuck around long enough, season 1 ultimately paid off, answering a lot of questions and raising new ones and unlike Whedon's previous Fox series (Firefly) was picked up for a second run. In the interim between the final episode of season 1 and the announcement that the show had been picked up again for the fall, there was no shortage of rumors and internet chatter about how Fox had screwed Joss over yet again. The two most prominent accusations were regarding a pilot episode that was not aired (similar to what had happened to Firefly) and season 1's un-aired finale "Epitaph One". The finale became a major source of curiosity for many fans as it purportedly took place several years in the future and featured "The Guild" and "Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog" actress Felicia Day. Fox apparently didn't think it was a good end cap to the season and so the only place that it and the pilot would be seen would be on DVD.

Season 2 of Dollhouse began about as luke-warm as season 1 had and sooner rather than later Fox decided to pull the plug, but they would allow Whedon to finish out the series' story. I had watched season 2 up to about the 4th episode, just before they started showing two episodes back to back each night and the remainder of the series from that point on has been sitting on my DVR for the last few months. I had heard that the series ultimately refers to or somehow ties in with the events in the missing season 1 finale Epitaph One and that the final episode of the series was even called "Epitaph Two". Before I started watching the rest of season 2 I wanted to see Epitaph One and get the whole Dollhouse experience, so I ordered the disc from Netflix and last night I sat down to watch it.

Why on Earth didn't Fox air this episode?!

Ok, I can probably understand why they didn't air it. Epitaph One, while it does feature characters from the series up to that point, doesn't do much to advance "the story so far", at least not in an immediate way. We find ourselves in a post-apocalyptic world, one where the technology to impose different personalities on existing people has gone awry, where it is implied that one day a phone call capable of transmitting imprints went out and afterward the world was split into two factions: those who answered the call and those who didn't. It's actually a chilling and quite original premise, like some kind of Orwellian, sci-fi, zombie fiction. As a season finale, Epitaph One would have been a serious cliff-hanger for a series that Fox obviously still wasn't sure about. As an executive programming decision without much insight or forethought, it makes sense not to air it. Having just seen it myself, if Epitaph One had aired as the season finale, I would have been able to forgive the slow start to season 2. The question remains as to whether or not the show's writers could have kept the standard Dollhouse stories interesting, while slowly doling out the intrigue and filling in the blanks left by Epitaph One, but it's a question that (perhaps fortunately) does not need to be answered. Season 2 became the last season of Dollhouse, but Whedon got to end it rather than leave it hanging and I'm looking forward to catching up to it all on my DVR, especially after watching Epitaph One.

Dollhouse definitely does reinforce the idea that American television is often too stuck on the idea of the "ongoing series". The goal in American television has always been: stay on the air as long as you can. In recent years however we've seen a surge in  more directed story-telling, shows like: Lost, Heroes, Firefly, Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica, and even going back to the 90's with show like Babylon 5, Space Above and Beyond, and The West Wing. In the case of shows like The West Wing and Babylon 5, these were shows that were only ever designed to last a certain amount of time. Babylon 5 was a story in 5 parts, each season being one of those parts. The West Wing was a story about the Bartlett administration and could have run at the most 8 seasons (even considering that season 1 starts us halfway through Bartlett's first year in office. American television writers are writing series' with the framework for finite stories, but still stuck on (or forced to adhere to) the ideology of the ongoing series. If American television writers were able to work more like the way Japanese and British television often does and work with projects designed to be finite then what you'd likely end up with would be more compelling, shorter series' and because of that, the likelihood of series' remaining on the air might increase.

Dollhouse as an example is perfect. If the show had been designed from the start to be 2 or 3 seasons long then the filler that most found to be boring, but that is necessary to extend of the life of and prove the validity of an ongoing series, would not need to be present and viewers would likely be more engaged. It's definitely something to think about, but whether or not television authors like Joss Whedon could ever sell such an idea to a network is a whole other subject. Perhaps it's not so much the writer's mentality as it is the network's. After all, something that gets good ratings season after season an that you can just renew is better than a bunch of finite shows that you have to take chances on once the previous one's run is up. At least from a "bottom line" TV executive perspective.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

At Least I'm Not Alone

Ok, so this guy is more than a little annoying, but he makes some good points on the same subject I brought up this past weekend: The Spike TV VGA's. It's just nice to see someone who doesn't work in the industry support it in the same way many of us inside do.

The Angry Joe Show - Why Spike's Video Game Awards Suck Balls

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Honor Just to Be Nominated

The Spike TV VGA's are the Grammy's of video game awards; a popularity contest at best, shamerless plugging and pay-to-play consumerism at worst. BUT it is nice to work for a company that not only gets nominated, but wins as well. So congratulations to Dragon Age for winning Best RPG and Best PC Game 2009.

I had to read about the wins this morning online because I simply can't watch the VGA's. I tried to watch it last year when the last game I worked on, Warhammer Online, was nominated for Best RPG, but it the show 45% celebrities unrelated to gaming, 45% trailers/advertising for next year's games, and maybe 10% awards show. It's nothing but pandering to hype-machine obsessed mainstream audience and an attempt to validate ourselves to the same audience by coopting celebrities from other entertainment mediums. I want a televised awards show that celebrates the art and artistry of game development the way the Oscars do film making. But then I'm one of the people who enjoys watching the Oscars from start to finish every year. If there were a video game awards show like the Oscars, likely no one would watch it. And it's not just because most people find awards shows boring, but because the video game industry has spent so much time hitching it's star to other forms of entertainment that people don't know how to relate to us without them.

I just wish the video game industry would take itself more seriously when in the spotlight instead of prostrating ourselves before television, hollywood, and the celebrity cult of personality like we're their kid brother trying to "be cool." Yeah we're the new kids on the block, but we don't need their approval to succeed and the fact that the video game industry revenue exceeds that of music, television and film and has for several years, should be proof enough.

In America at least I feel as if video games are still seen as an industry of nerds and slackers making more money than they have any right to. This is a myth perpetuated by an misunderstanding of what goes into the making of video games and the few publicized successes from the 90's (Doom, etc.) Are we nerds? Yes. Are our work environments generally casual? Yes. But I challenge any hollywood, record label, television, or other office drones to call me or any decent game developer a slacker to our faces while they're skipping out of work at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Game developers are overworked and underpaid and we love every minute of it. And while my ultimate payoff is that I love my job, I wouldn't mind a little respect from the rest of the 9-5 working world and that's not something we're going to get by acting excited just to be invited to the party.

Video games are going to shape the 21st century the way that film shaped the 20th, it's time to grow up and act like it. I'm honored to have worked for companies that have been nominated for and won Spike TV VGA's, but I don't need Jack Black, Green Day, and Samuel L. Jackson, to validate that to the rest of the world. We need to make our own celebrities and face the world on our terms. Let them pander to us because we don't owe them anything.